Matisyahu performs at Rex Theater Fri., Dec. 15 | Music Features | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper
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Matisyahu performs at Rex Theater Fri., Dec. 15 

“That's what creativity is: entering into that unknown space and taking those risks.”

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Musician, rapper and beatboxer Matisyahu arrived at his singular style of music via an unusual route. Growing up a Jewish kid in New York City, he says, the first music he explored outside his parents' record collection was that of reggae superstar Bob Marley. 

“I loved the music and everything that went along with it,” he told CP in a recent phone interview. “And the Old Testament references really piqued my interest.”

He also developed a strong interest in hip-hop, nourished by witnessing The Roots backing Common, along with “a guy named Kenny Muhammad, who had a beatbox duo.” Matisyahu also credits his first experience with LSD — at age 16 while attending a Phish concert — as another “major influential musical experience.”

All of those influences are evident in the music, filtered and given new life through Matisyahu’s distinct personality. In fact, one of the primary values of jazz — improvisation – is key to Matisyahu's music, especially live onstage. “I feel a huge kinship with jazz,” he says. “Every night is a new opportunity to create something new. That's what creativity is; it's all about entering into that unknown space and taking those risks.”

That musical risk-taking is something that Matisyahu requires from his musicians. “They're just in love with their music, and that's it,” he says. “I completely respect that attitude; it's the approach that I take, too.” He views making music as the relationship between risk and reward: “the more it starts to fall apart, the harder the impact is when it comes back together.”


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